During the 1800's the well known author Mark Twain wrote his infamous novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a follow up novel to his successful work: Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of the writer's career, as his new book turned into one of the most well known novels of generations to come. There have been many film adaptions of the story. However, this project is going to focus on Disney's 1993 attempt at bringing the story of freedom and adventure to the silver screen.
The novel focuses on Jim, a run away slave, and Huck, a boy that has faked his own death to escape his abusive father. The pair of them are destined for Cairo, the place where their freedom is waiting for them. Over the course of the book, the two overcome problem after problem on the river while speaking loudly to the morals of their audience. Whether that be through slavery, religion, child abuse, lying, stealing, etc. there is a reason this book is called one of the greatest pieces of American literature.
While Huck and Jim are making their way to Cairo in search of freedom, Huck dresses up as a girl and attempts to get information on how close they are to their destination. In the novel, Huck and the lady get along and she offers her help and resources to the young boy. However, Disney must have not liked this outcome because, in their version, Huck robs the old woman and beats her up. Yeah, definitely what dreams are made of, Walt. The film paints Huck to be a feral child that has never done anything for anyone but cause trouble. This ultimately defeats the purpose of the story. Huckleberry Finn is supposed to represent how the societal norms can be overcome and equality/ happiness can prevail. By taking away Huck's conscience and making him a wild child, there is no room for moral growth, which is what the story is all about.
Pap is Huck's abusive, alcoholic father. He is the reason Huck faked his own death. Towards the end of the novel, Jim reveals to Huck that his father had passed away. Huckleberry barely acknowledges the fact that his father died. He simply expressed his relief. In the film, this scene is extended as a heart to heart between Jim and Huck, where Huck talks about how even bad fathers still deserve recognition as fathers. He tells Jim that he knows he will not make it to heaven, but he hopes he knows someone that will so they can talk to his father for him. Perhaps this was Disney's way of making Pap and Huck's abusive relationship more family friendly. However, the fact that there were "no hard feelings" does not excuse the fact that millions of children were exposed to alcoholism, child abuse, and ignorant speech from the mouth of Pap.
The Grangerfords are a family of higher-ups that Huck runs into after being separated from Jim on the river. Twain uses this flamboyant family to satirize the traits of Romantic literature. The Grangerfords have been involved in a forever long feud with the Shepherdsons that has resulted in many members of the two families dying. Huck hits it off with Buck, one of the Grangerfords children. In the novel, Buck wants to show Huck the swamp by their home. When they get to the swamp, Jim is there speaking with the other slaves when he is reunited with Huck. The two leave soon after a battle breaks out between the Grangerfords and Shephersons, where Buck is murdered. The film portrays Huck and Jim arriving to the Grangerfords' mansion together. Huck then chooses for Jim to be beaten so he can go fishing with Buck in the swamp. They return before the battle breaks out and see Jim with blood dripping from his back. Huck calls Jim his best friend and is against slavery at this point in the book. The film depicts Huck to not care whether or not Jim is beaten (until afterwards), though Huck would have never left Jim with a cruel master due to his character. This scene completely backtracks all of the process that has been made with Huck in the film. He is brought back to being just like everyone else in his racist and narrow-minded town, which is what he was trying so hard to get away from. This scene did nothing but contradict the rest of the film and confuse the audience as to whether Huck sees Jim as equal or not.
Tom Sawyer is Huckleberry Finn's more well-known, mischievous friend. Tom Sawyer is a huge part of Huck's life and the choices he makes throughout his journey. In the novel, Tom represents the foolishness that comes with an over active imagination and not taking responsibility for your actions. He is used to contrast Huck's moral growth and make clear to the reader that societal ideals are inevitably impressed onto our youth at a very young age, almost before there is time to stop it. In Disney's adaptation, Tom Sawyer was completely removed. Tom is a big source of Jim and Huck's problem towards the end of the book. Tom's actions are a stepping stone to the conclusion of the novel, so to fix this gap Disney decided to have Huck play out Tom's actions. Where Tom gets everyone in trouble and ends up getting shot for his nonsense in the novel, Huck is trying to get Jim to freedom and gets shot for helping a runaway slave. This scene is the one that precedes the end of the novel and the reveal that Jim is already a free man. Since Tom is not there to move things along, the transition is made by simply having Huck black out and wake up back home with his family. The fact that the audience does not get to witness Huck's growth and the final decisions he makes to prove his character really takes away from the plot. Huckleberry is made out to be a brave and well rounded boy in the novel, and in the film, he is just a bystander to the action.